Compared to what: Marketing and relativity

What tastes better, a $30 bottle of wine that's the cheapest the restaurant offers…

or the very same bottle at the restaurant next door, where it's the most expensive?

When asked about our experience, the essential question is always, compared to what?

What offers a better education: four years at your first choice selective college like Purdue or Williams?

or four years at the same place, but it's your last resort safe school, after you've been rejected by more famous (and thus selective) schools like Yale and Harvard?

What represents a better performance: a three hour marathon when you come in first in the small-town meet, or a three hour marathon when you come in last at the elite one?

We often need a frame before we're comfortable evaluating value. Marketers regularly exploit this glitch by creating the illusion of value (or non-value) by highlighting comparisons, when in fact, those comparisons really don't have to matter.

Without a doubt, there are competitive items and experiences where extrinsic status matters, and where understanding the context of what is created is part of the point. Winning may in fact be the goal. For most of what we experience, though, it's our own interpretation of the experience itself that matters, not what a marketer tells us about how this ranks against that.

Good enough, is.

(Bonus: jazz).